(The Courting or Engaged Series)
I am quite familiar with the Proverbs 31 scripture that describes what a VIRTUOUS WOMAN does and how she conducts herself. Maybe you are too. For sure, if you are a Christian or have been attending a Church for any length of time, you know that the idea of a virtuous woman is quite popular with the congregation and rightly so. Women hoping to one day be engaged and married, know that this is the ultimate standard that they need to aspire to in godly conduct and men looking for that special woman to call their wife, examine prospective women by the yardstick of this particular Word.
I was surprised though to realize only somewhat recently, that there is a name given to another type of woman in the scriptures, one which we often glide over without paying much attention to: The ODIOUS WOMAN.
I have read the Bible through and through on at least two occasions but I cannot remember seeing this term before. It piqued my curiosity and so I decided it would be nice to explore both the attributes of the virtuous woman, against those of the odious woman, especially within the context of love relationships, courting and marriage.
Now these two types of women are polar opposites based on the scripture. One is to night as the other is to day. Every woman hoping to one day get married or that may be in a relationship at the moment therefore, should consider which sort of woman she more resembles and which sort of wife she is one day going to be. She can aspire to be like the virtuous woman or she can be content to be an odious woman.
THE VIRTUOUS WOMAN
The woman referred to in Proverbs 31 is described as a virtuous woman, possibly the highest compliment that a woman could hope to hear from the man she is interested in or is in a relationship with (other than that he has fallen hopelessly in love with her of course).
In the Bible, Ruth had the honour of being bestowed with this title by Boaz, that godly, wealthy, influential and caring man, who eventually married her. When they met and he found out who she was, he told her, based on all that he had been hearing about her reputation: “…for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.”
Having paid her such a high compliment, it is not much of a surprise that Boaz eventually became her husband.
TIP: Ladies, if as a Christian woman, a godly man makes such a compliment to you and you are not related, you are both single or have been courting each other and you are both interested in each other, this is a pretty strong indication (although not a guarantee), that that man sees and appreciates your high value and intends, by the grace of God, to one day put a ring on your finger! In other words, his eye is on you and he is most likely in it for keeps.
Now it is important to note that, contrary to popular belief, the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 is not perfect or sinless, as she is a human being like everybody else, born in sin and shaped in iniquity. Also, although we tend to think that her being virtuous refers to the long list of activities she engages in for her household, this is not so.
Virtuous does not mean that a woman does a lot of stuff and busies herself in the home but it refers to her character. It refers to the traits of which she has been graced by God to have and operates in, not for show or attention or to manipulate a man so as to get her way but because it is who she is intrinsically as a person. Even if no one is watching, she will still exhibit these traits because it is who she is. The woman in Proverbs 31 therefore did as she did, as an outpouring of her character.
Based on my research, the term ‘virtuous’ means moral excellence and showing high moral standards. It means righteous, good, moral, morally correct, ethical, upright, upstanding, right-minded, right-thinking, principled, exemplary, clean, law-abiding, generally irreproachable, generally blameless, generally guiltless, just, honest, honourable, not capable of being bribed, anti-corruption, scrupulous, reputable, decent, respectable, noble, worthy, trustworthy, praise-worthy, commendable, admirable and pure.
The Bible also adds the main ingredient of a virtuous woman which glues all the other attributes together, in that she is not just moral but she also fears God. That is, she knows him, has a relationship with him, loves him, respects and has regard for his instructions and commands and in today’s Church age, she would be indwelled by the Spirit of Christ.
Having established what being a virtuous woman means, it is not surprising that God places high value on such a woman. In fact the Bible gives the impression that she is a rare find. In Proverbs 31:10, it states: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.”
Based on Proverbs 31, it is my view that the following can be deduced about the attributes of a virtuous woman:
1. She does not go looking for a husband, act as if she is desperate or beg any man to marry her. Knowing her worth, she waits patiently until she is found. For such a woman therefore, it is the man that looks and pursues and woos, so as to convince her to allow him to court her and eventually, to accept his hand in marriage, not the other way round. Whatever her price (and this does not mean money), he is prepared to pay it because he is convinced of her indisputable value. (Proverbs 31:10)
2. She is trustworthy. Delilah had Samson’s hair cut off when he was sleeping on her knees. She did this, after deliberately putting him to sleep, so that his strength would go, he could be captured and she could collect payment from his enemies, based on a deal she had made previously with them. Unlike Delilah, the virtuous woman is not at all manipulative and does not deal with her husband treacherously. He therefore knows that, although she is not perfect, he can safely place his heart in her hands, as she will take good care of it, not just for a period of time or in the good times but for a lifetime. (Proverbs 31:11-12)
3. She consistently does him good and not evil. Even on days when she may be upset with him, angry at his conduct or even involved in a verbal argument, she will still be resolved in her heart because she genuinely loves him and is a woman of character, to do him good and not evil. The difficult days which every marriage is bound to go through, will not change her loyalty and faithfulness to him. Whether he deserves it or not, she will always want what is good for him and always seek his best interest, for she loves him unconditionally and therefore allows that love to cover the multitude of sins. This does not mean that she is a walk-over or a door mat. That is not at all healthy. It simply means that she will always want what is in his best interest, fueled by her love for him, even when he may not treat her as she deserves. (Proverbs 31:12)
4. She is a very hard worker and she does so with a good attitude. She is not lazy, does not complain or do what she has to do reluctantly but one gets the impression that she enjoys what she does. (Proverbs 31:13-14;18, 27)
5. She is prepared to make sacrifices for her family, even giving up sleep to ensure that her family is provided for and going the distance to ensure that they are well fed. (Proverbs 31:14-15)
6. She can cook. Her family is well fed and she is instrumental in this process. She is not in the habit of ordering takeout but she prepares most of the household’s meals herself. (Proverbs 31:15)
7. She does not act rashly or impetuously. She carefully considers a situation before making a decision but on the other hand, she does not overly procrastinate. She moves when it is time to move. (Proverbs 31:16-18)
8. She is capable of making good decisions on her own without the need to be micromanaged by her husband in everything she does. Given that he trusts her and knows that she can make good decisions, he therefore allows her considerable leeway in this regard, not stifling or suppressing her shine or inter-meddling unnecessarily but allowing her to do, be and become what she thinks it is prudent to do, be and become. (Proverbs 31:16-20)
9. She is not just a good domestic wife but also a good business woman. She has vision, perceives good business opportunities, acts upon them and knows how to leverage her strengths, talents and abilities, so that such opportunities can flourish. She is not afraid to put in the hard work, sweat and toil to get her vision to where she feels confident it can go and so she sets her mind to work, perceiving that what she has to offer is valuable. (Proverbs 31:16-19, 24, 25)
10. She is kind, compassionate and generously gives to the less fortunate. She does not just operate in her own bubble where her family is provided for and that is it. No. She extends her giving to the poor so as to help alleviate their situation. (Proverbs 31:20)
11. She does not run from challenges. She accepts them and rises above them. (Proverbs 31:21)
12. She attends to herself by making sure that she is properly put together. She dresses well and in a manner that does not come across as cheap, shabby or tacky but as someone that is of high value, worth and respectability. (Proverbs 31:22)
13. She ensures that her entire family is also smartly attired. (Proverbs 31:22)
14. She contributes positively to the building up of her home and her husband, so much so that he is esteemed in the community and considered to be one of the respectable men in the land (Proverbs 31:23)
15. She exercises self-control over her mouth in terms of the things that she says. When she speaks, it is with wisdom and she uses her tongue for kindness, not malice, gossip, badmouthing or to put down or destroy others. (Proverbs 31:26)
16. She is devoted to the successful management of her home and does not waste her time on idleness. She accepts willingly that the management of the home is her responsibility and she spends quality time attending to such affairs. She has no time to waste on creating or entertaining mischief, drama, gossip, conflict or other products of idleness. (Proverbs 31:27)
17. She has a good name among her family, namely her children and her husband, not because of any pretense or show when around people outside the family but because of who they have known her genuinely to be at home. (Proverbs 31:28)
18. She is selfless in heart and perspective, not at all preoccupied with her own self-interest. (Proverbs 31:12, 15, 20, 21, 27)
19. She is the kind of woman and wife that a man feels forever grateful and proud to have, so much so that he praises her. (Proverbs 31:28)
20. She is a woman that fears the Lord, has relationship with him and puts him first, even before a man. She values her spiritual relationship with God and the truth that flows from it. She does not therefore deceitfully tell a man what she knows he wants to hear (even if it is not the truth) just so she can find favour with him and get what she wants. She also focuses more on her spiritual life in Christ than on her looks and vanity. (Proverbs 31:30)
21. In due season, she reaps a harvest for all the good that she has selflessly, sincerely and non-manipulatively sown. (Proverbs 31:25, 31).
Having listed the attributes that Proverbs 31 seems to portray of a virtuous woman, you may be feeling ecstatic because the traits noted describe you to a T or you may be feeling a bit down (which I admit I initially felt), as although some of the traits definitely describe you, you did not score 100% on this test.
As a work colleague loved to tell me some years ago, I say to you now: Let not your heart be troubled. Although you do not measure up with everything mentioned here, this does not mean that you are disqualified from being a wife or from ever being regarded by a man as a virtuous woman. For, there are two comforting facts about the virtuous woman mentioned in Proverbs 31, that we usually do not realize.
These are as follows:-
Firstly, we often forget that the virtuous woman mentioned in Proverbs 31 was a married woman with children. That means that she was at least some years into her marriage. While I am sure that when she was found by her husband, she exhibited many of the traits and attributes above, she may not have exhibited all or been excellent in everything mentioned. However, she would have persevered, aspired to be excellent and improved as the marriage progressed. Single women ought not therefore to hit themselves over the head in despair if they don’t measure up to everything mentioned in this list.
Also, Christian men ought not to have unrealistic expectations by going out and looking for a woman that will line up 100% with what is stated in these scriptures. A Christian man must be able to spot potential (with God’s help) and be prepared to wash his wife with water by the Word. He must be able to love and cherish her and to make the investment in her so that when in the marriage, she can shine and do greater and greater exploits (fueled by his love, his support and his understanding), like this virtuous woman. In other words, men should not look for a ready-made wife but be prepared once they perceive potential, to pull up their sleeves to put in the hard work that may be required, to get their wives to the place where they will shine.
As Ephesians 5:25-29 instructs men:
- “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.”
Secondly, the virtuous woman mentioned in Proverbs 31 was the very epitome of virtuosity, meaning that she was the highest, ideal standard of what a virtuous woman looks like. She was not the only virtuous woman as verse 29 clearly points out. There were many others but this particular woman outshone them all.
You ought not to feel disqualified from being regarded as a virtuous woman therefore, if you possessed most of the traits above but not all. If you did, you too are a virtuous woman and there is always room for improvement.
If you failed miserably when evaluating yourself however, then it may be time for some introspection. You may need to put in the effort to change some of your ways, attitudes, practices and way of thinking. For, you do NOT want to be considered by the person you are interested in and may one day marry, to be on the other end of the spectrum, which is an odious woman!
THE ODIOUS WOMAN
Proverbs 30:21-23 states:
- “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat; For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress.”
Wow! Based on this scripture, one gets the impression that there is no peace where an odious woman is concerned. She comes with a storm, so much so, that the Bible describes her as causing the earth to be disquieted when she is married.
My research revealed that the term ‘odious’ means hateful, deserving hatred, causing hate, exciting hatred, offensive and disgusting. I take it to mean therefore, that an odious woman is one who, through her actions and behaviour, creates offence and excites hatred, contempt, scorn and disgust.
This is certainly not the way that any woman should want the man that she is interested in or who she may end up marrying, to think of her. It is therefore important that we examine the traits of this type of woman, so that we can avoid becoming like her.
For, the actions and behaviour of an odious woman are so distasteful and offensive, that her husband or the person she is in a relationship with have gotten to the place where they are ashamed of her.
Proverbs 12:4 uses strong language when it states: “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.” For, unlike the virtuous woman where her husband sang her praises, the odious woman has conducted herself in such a manner that her husband or significant other now sees little or no value in her. She is a burden to him, one that he finds heavy, painful to bear, irritating and most likely wishes he can escape from.
In my assessment of the odious woman, I have deduced the following attributes about her character:
1. She is not peaceable. She is contentious, angry, loves to pick a fight, has a temper is argumentative, clamorous, quarrelsome, loud, riotous, drama-loving and boisterous.
2. She is not submissive or humble but controlling and proud. She wants to wear the pants in the home, feels like she must always have the last say and fights to assert control and authority over her husband or cunningly gets her way through deceitful manipulation.
3. Her words are unkind. She insults her husband, puts him down in front of people (including the children) and therefore blatantly and non-repentantly disrespects him.
4. She nags and complains all or most of the time, whether it be about the housework or life in general, as she has a negative, dissatisfied outlook on life and a victim mentality.
5. She is selfish. She thinks of what she wants and what she needs most of the time and this selfish bubble prevents her from being considerate of others.
6. She is not appreciative. Nothing her husband does is ever good enough. She finds fault with everything he does, nit-picks at him and rarely ever compliments, affirms or praises him.
7. She may be religious and even involved in ‘ministry’ but she is not very God-fearing, as if she were, she would humble herself, engage in introspection and submit to how the scriptures says she should live.
Instead of endearing her husband to herself, the actions of the odious woman estrange him from her. Instead of contributing to the building up of her home and her husband’s confidence, so much so that he is esteemed in the community and respected (as the husband of the virtuous woman is) the odious woman emasculates him, filling him with feelings of insecurity and resentment.
Proverbs 21:9 and 19 state: “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house…It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”
The husband of an odious woman therefore finds her difficult to live with and longs for an escape to his misery. For him, home is a prison, not a place of love, warmth, relaxation, acceptance and comfort.
He may have been hoodwinked when he married her but now, the husband of the odious woman realizes he is paying the price for his stupidity or naivety. He realizes that this woman is not a blessing (as the husband of the virtuous woman can proudly declare) but a curse. For her constant nagging, quarreling, finding fault and disrespect is like the noise of water continually dripping from a faucet, which wearies the spirit with the continual hearing. It is downright irritating and makes one long for complete silence.
As Proverbs 27:15 states: “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” Proverbs 19:13 also states: “A foolish son is the calamity of his father and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.”
Surely, having learned from his mistake too late, a man living with an odious woman will attest from his miserable experience, that Proverbs 17:1 is indeed right when it says: “Better is a dry morsel and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.”
An odious woman is therefore not very smart. She is what the Bible describes as ‘simple’, meaning not wise. She does not possess wisdom and so does not realize that her own actions and poor character are contributing to the demise of her relationship and family.
Proverbs 9:13 states: “A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.” Proverbs 14:1 also states: “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”
Proverbs 19:14 makes it clear that “…a prudent wife is from the Lord.” Prudent means wise and so a wife sent from God will have good understanding like Abigail had and wisdom. Hence the reason that Proverbs 16:21 states that, “The wise in heart shall be called prudent.”
Have a prudent, wise wife means that she will genuinely fear God because Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. She will also know and believe in the authority of God’s Word on all matters, as the Bible also tells us that it is the testimony of God that makes the simple wise (Psalm 19:7).
Whereas a virtuous woman is wise therefore (Proverbs 31 tells us that “She openeth her mouth with wisdom…” and that as “….a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised”), the odious woman is not.
If a Christian man ends up with an odious woman therefore that is devoid of wisdom and is therefore incapable of giving him good, wise counsel (as Abigail, a godly woman, gave David), this will be of his own making. That is, it will never be that God sent that woman into his life for marriage because the scriptures tell us that a prudent wife is from the Lord. It also tells us that “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)
Instead, it will be that that Christian man chose such a woman of his own self-will, stubbornness and volition, perhaps having been deceived into thinking she was otherwise, prior to marriage and possibly refusing to hear counsel from those who expressed dissent with the idea of their union.
(Written on 04th August, 2020, last four paragraphs added thereafter)
Dear Reader, if you found this Article to be useful, interesting or beneficial, you may also be interested in reading the following on my ‘SINGLE Daughters Of God – Hephzibah Diaries’ Page:
- Note 134 – ‘The Manipulative Woman’